Sunday, April 01, 2018

Resurrection, Eucharist, Heaven (Easter homily)

 All during Lent, you and I have been on a journey – 
a pilgrimage to the Cross. 
And as you know, at the same time, with each week’s homily 
we have been moving through the Holy Mass.

As our way led us to Holy Thursday and Good Friday, 
it also brought us to that moment in the Mass, 
when those saving events are made present to us.

If you were here on Holy Thursday, we looked deeply at that.

On that first Good Friday, Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, 
and we heard him say, “It is finished,” 
And so, in a familiar moment of the Mass,
The priest lifts up the Body and the Blood, and he sings,
“Through him, with him and in him” – that is, through Christ, in Christ.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus died on the Cross, 
the veil in the temple was torn open: 
no separation between God and humanity.

So when we reach that point of the Mass – 
after the Eucharistic Prayer – 
it is like what we mark today: 
The Cross is over! The tomb is empty! Jesus is Risen!
Heaven is open to us, and Christ is leading us there!

Notice what happens at that point in the Mass.
Before we were kneeling, humbly begging God for mercy.
After, we are standing, calling God our Father.
We Christians have been praying the “Our Father” 
for almost 2,000 years, all around the world, in every language. 
There aren’t enough things that unite Christians, 
but this is one of them. It is a prayer that belongs to us all. 

It’s so familiar, we don’t realize what a revolution it is.
There are other religions in the world that take offense; 
to them, it is the height of presumption 
for mere mortals to call God “Father.”
You might recall that one time when Jesus called God his Father, 
people took up stones – that’s how offended they were.

So here we are, addressing God in the most intimate terms. How?
Because of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.

Again, Lent and the Mass are both about leading us to the Cross. 
But once we arrive there, then what?

Then, the Cross – and the Mass – are about leading us to heaven.
As I said on Holy Thursday, when the priest offers the Sacrifice 
on the altar, on our behalf, he is addressing the Father on the throne.

When the priest shows the Father the Body and Blood of the Son,
Heaven is opened to us. 
We address the Father not as strangers but as children.
Nevertheless, all because – only because – of Jesus.
Because Jesus gave all on the Cross.
Because Jesus went down to the grave.
Because Jesus rose from the dead!

After we pray the Our Father, it is fitting 
that the prayers are about peace. 
It is fitting that we offer peace to each other. 
Christ has given us all the peace we could ever want: 
forgiveness of our sins, and heaven as our home!

And it is likewise fitting that as the priest prays all these prayers, 
he is gazing at the Eucharist. He is gazing at Jesus. 
He is peering into heaven.

So, yes, the Mass is about the Cross. 
It is also about Resurrection. Let’s talk about that.

Easter is first about Jesus’ Resurrection.
And let us be blunt about this:
Without question, Jesus died. 
If you ever wonder why Jesus was treated so cruelly,
Perhaps God allowed it, so as to close the door on anyone claiming,
“Oh, Jesus didn’t actually die.” 
Yes, Jesus died. And he was buried.

In Jerusalem, the tomb of Jesus is there. I have been there.
I was with a group of priests, and we had Mass right there.
The stone on which Jesus lay is covered over 
with another piece of stone – 
And that is the altar on which we offered the Mass.

Only one or two priests could be inside at a time; 
but when it came time to receive Holy Communion, 
each of us went inside the tomb to eat and drink the Body and Blood.
What a moment! But realize what happened there:
The two most important signs of our Faith:
The empty tomb, and the Holy Eucharist. 

You can’t have one without the other.
There is no Christian Faith if Jesus did not truly rise.
But the Resurrection wasn’t just for Jesus, it is for us.
He didn’t show himself to his Mother and the Apostles 
simply to show off, but rather to show us what lies ahead for us.

And that is Heaven.
In the Holy Eucharist, you and I taste Heaven.
The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, born of Mary.
The Eucharist is the Body broken, and Blood shed, on the Cross.
This is the Risen Body of him who conquered death and hell!

And this is the Body of which we became part in baptism.
During Lent, we have had every opportunity to renew our baptism 
through penance and confession.

Hopefully we have taken advantage of these opportunities,
So that we can approach the Eucharist in a state of grace;
Because, as I said, this is about heaven.
Heaven will not be heaven for us 
if you and I do not let heaven change us, here and now, day by day.

This is the secret of heaven; this is how you “go to heaven.”
No one goes to heaven by surprise. 
We come to in heaven in the end, precisely and only because 
we let heaven come into us, in this life.
That’s what baptism is; that’s what confession is; 
that’s what a life of conversion is. 
We let heaven into our lives here, and heaven makes us heavenly.

That is what the Eucharist is: heaven! Heaven!
And that is what the Mass is. 

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